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What is blacklisting?

Blacklisting is a process of actively monitoring the Internet for reports of email traffic fro a variety of sources sending unsolicited commercial email (SPAM) and then publicly listing that known information on Internet sites for others to reference as a measure to fight SPAM. Many ISP’s and independent organizations then use these blacklist databases as a reference filter applied to their inbound mail servers to aid in preventing SPAM and to encourage internet security.

Explaining the SA Spamming Law.

Spam laws in South Africa?
In the South African context we are guided by the all-important ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSACTIONS ACT of 2002 which states:1. Any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to consumers, must provide the consumer: with the option to cancel his or her subscription to the mailing list of that person; and with the identifying particulars of the source from which that person obtained the consumer’s personal information, on request of the consumer.
2. No agreement is concluded where a consumer has failed to respond to an unsolicited communication.
3. Any person who fails to comply with or contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to the penalties prescribed in section 89(1).
4. Any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to a person, who has advised the sender that such communications are unwelcome, is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to the penalties prescribed in section 89(1).What does it mean for email marketing?
You need to have an unsubscribe facility (e.g. the automated website unsubscribe link) on all emails that are of a commercial nature. Should someone unsubscribe from your mailing list, you should never send them further similar emails.Marketers should also have permission to send a mail to someone as part of a large-scale communication exercise (i.e. Sending out to a list) and you need to be able to prove how you received that permission (e.g. paper form, a contract, website registration form statistics report, telephone conversation recording etc). The recipient has to agree to receive electronic communications from you and you need to keep a record of it. Then you can send them promotional communications.This law doesn’t mean you can’t ever send anyone an unsolicited email. For instance, emailing a particular person whose email address is on the website of a company with whom you’d like to do business is not an offence. That is a one-to-one communication that is part and parcel of going about your work.

How did I get blacklisted?

There are many types of lists, but the most prevalent are the open-relay / open proxy lists, and “guilt by association” lists.

Open-relay/Proxy server blacklists are based on open ports through which unauthorized network traffic is allowed to flow. The open-relay/proxy lists are the most definite and widely used since they are based on the presumption that a “spammer” found you and likely had relayed a high volume of SPAM through your Message Transfer Agent (MTA), causing your MTA’s IP address to be reported to the list by recipients of that SPAM. Many of the better blacklists will run an automated script to verify that the evidence against you is genuine before blacklisting your server. Many blacklists will quickly de-list you if you submit a request to retest your “repaired” mail server. Of course, there will be propagation time after you are de-listed (sometimes as long as a week), because the destination mail server administrators pull the updated lists at times they prefer.

Another method blacklist sites use to produce listings is that of “guilt by association”. A blacklist site will list much larger blocks of IP addresses than those owned by the suspected abuser. For example, if you are provided with an IP address and the “spammer” owns an address that is close in range to yours and the spammer gets listed on this type of blacklist, your IP block might be listed as well. Usually the reasoning behind this practice is that, by punishing innocent parties, the blacklister is putting more pressure on the ISP to disconnect the suspected spammer’s Internet access. SBCIS can only take action against a customer in violation of our AUP and direct evidence must be provided to substantiate the violation (email headers or other evidence of abuse). A blacklist site’s evaluation of someone as a “known spammer” or having a “history of spam” is NOT acceptable evidence of violation of our AUP, and does not warrant the termination of service.

How do I know if I am on an e-mail blacklist?

The first clue that you may have been blacklisted usually is that you will receive “bounce-back” emails from the destination domain to which you are attempting to deliver mail. *Many of these bounce-backs from destination mail server(s) will inform you of the technical reason that you are being blocked but some will not, depending on the administrator’s preferences and type of MTA software.

Here are some of the more commonly used blacklist sites. Most provide an automated test that you can run against your IP address:

http://www.blacklistalert.org/

http://www.spamhaus.org/lookup.lasso?dnsbl=domain

http://www.email-unlimited.com/tools/check-ip.aspx

*Note: Before assuming you are listed on blacklists, make sure to check that your outbound mail server has correct forward and reverse DNS and is not an open-relay, and, make sure other technical settings are correct by referencing your mail server software documentation.

How do I get removed from a blacklist?

Generally the most expedient way of being removed from a listing is to contact the blacklist directly. Since blacklisting services each have their own procedures for adding and removing IP’s, all complaints should be sent directly to the blacklisting service. Please visit the blacklisting services’ website for more information.

You may also complain to the owner of the domain that is blocking your mail. The administrator of the mail domain made a choice to subscribe to the blacklist and accept its degree of accuracy (which unfortunately is not 100%) in a trade-off for more protection against SPAM. You should be able to find the mail administrator of any domain by visiting the domain’s website or doing a WHOIS query with their registrar.

Who do I send a complaint to on practices of a blacklisting service?

Since each blacklisting service has its own procedures for adding and removing IP’s, all complaints should be sent to the blacklisting service and/or the domain that is blocking your mail. Please visit the blacklisting services’ website for more information.

You may also want to complain to the owner of the domain that is subscribing to the blacklisting service to let them know that the blacklist practices are generating complaints from their users. You should be able to find the mail administrator of any domain by visiting the domain’s website or doing a WHOIS query with their registrar.

You can find some of the common blacklisting services in the section below on Who are some of the common blacklisting services?

How can I avoid being blacklisted in the future?

There are several ways to avoid being “blacklisted”.

MAINTAIN and update your anti-virus software. Your anti-virus software manufacturer should provide helpful information on virus definitions through a “threat list.” New threats of viruses are listed on a daily basis, while other viruses are re-coded and re-distributed. Some of these viruses, called worm-viruses, are self-propagating infections that embed themselves into your system files – causing the virus to send out SPAM, without your knowledge, but that appears to come from you (your IP address).

MAINTAIN your security features on your PC or Network Servers. Open Mail Relays have become a major cause for blacklisting. An Open Relay is used as a conduit to send UCE/SPAM through your connection by spammers who, thereby, mask their identity and make it appear as if you are the originator of the message. You may find instructions on how to test for, and close, open relays by researching various blacklist and anti-spam resources.

DON’T SPAM!!! It is considered a Violation of our Acceptable Use Policies and Guidelines to distribute unsolicited commercial email. Spamming is punishable by blacklisting and termination of service, and has also been outlawed by many states.

What are some of the common blacklisting services?

The most common of blacklisting services are:

All of the foregoing blacklist services are generally similar in functionality. Some have different procedures in regard to de-listing your IP address.

How do I get additional information on blacklisting?

Online information is easily found with the following suggested key words.

  • Online search key words for spam blocking list’s: “abuse Spam blacklist”
  • Online search key words for open relay blocking lists: ” abuse relays blacklist”